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With a respected name in Manchester’s craft gin, rum and cocktail scene, Zymurgorium’s entry into craft beer was always going to be eagerly anticipated. Really though, we should talk about its ‘re-entry’, as the company’s entrepreneurial founders started out brewing beer and mead before they launched as Zymurgorium in 2013. Nonetheless, it was clear to everyone that Zymurgorium would be expected to knock its first ‘new’ beer clear out of the park.

“Beer has very different customers compared to spirits, so for some people we might be seen as a total newcomer, you know, a sort of newcomer,” observes Aaron Darke, Zymurgorium’s managing director. “I think whichever of those groups you fall into though, we wanted to approach brewing the same way we’ve approached distilling, which is all about focusing on quality, consistency and accessibility.

“There's always been two sides to craft beer, which you could broadly call experimentation and the technical craft. Quite often in recent years, one definition has been focused on a lot more than the other, with brewers saying ‘let's experiment at any cost’. That's not to say that experimental beer isn’t good; there are some very good ones out there, but there are also a lot of beers that probably shouldn’t make it into competition.”

Zymurgorium’s first beer is very clearly directed to hit Aaron’s “craft as a skill” requirement; Zymbier is a full-bodied, Czech-style pilsner, tricky to brew and a style on which everyone has their own opinions. 

“My view is that if you go to a pub and you ask for lager, you want a perfect lager, rather than being surprised with something you’ve not asked for. Everyone’s got their own expectations when it comes to lager, but when it’s done well, with authenticity and the best ingredients, then it’s going to hit with the main crowd, the majority, whether they’re craft beer lovers or not. That’s a tricky thing to do, but that’s where we’ve pitched Zymbier.”

While Aaron’s not making any assumptions about the success of the beer, he’s clearly – and reassuringly – got one eye on the future, and managing growth. As a distiller, Zymurgorium has earned a reputation as a completely reliable supplier, and Aaron is keen to carry this into the beer world, by scaling up slowly and steadily, rather than making the classic craft mistake of biting off more than he can chew. 

His hoped-for trajectory also includes targets based on values too, such as environmental performance and accessibility – both clearly of huge importance to him – baked right into the business plan. 

“We’re obviously not going to be the cheapest on the bar,” continues Aaron, “but we want to go out with a reasonable price for premium products. It follows suit with what we've done at [Zymurgorium’s speakeasy bar] Project Halcyon, which is seen as one of the most premium bars in Manchester. But it's still accessible. For me, there’s no point building something that’s the height of quality, but is inaccessible to most people.”

Aaron is understandably cagey about the next additions to Zymurgorium’s beer line-up, except to confirm that more brews are in the works, and that they’ll follow the same approach of targeting wide appeal with quality brewing.

“It’s just great to be brewing again, and we’re definitely considering some of the older, more loved recipes that we had when we first started in the early 2010s. It would be great to bring those back, vastly improved obviously, with the new kit and everything. So yeah, I can't wait for it, to be honest.”

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